A Little Pep Talk for Myself (and You)

Life is a long series of starts and stops, and there’s no place where this is more painfully obvious than in the writing world.  We start projects, we stop projects.  We start new projects, those new projects turn into old, comfortable projects, then those projects find a timely end.  Wherever we are along the process, with whatever project we’re on, we have certain obstacles to overcome.  

Old projects get boring and stop inspiring joy, making it harder to push through the really tough parts.  New projects are fraught with dangers too numerous to name.  Ours is a two-fold job: to keep the old projects fresh, and to find the courage to take the first steps in a new project.

Finding Courage in Work and in Life

One door closes, another one opens – we’ve all heard this particularly unfresh bit of patronizing advice.  It’s never a given that a closed door leads to a new one.  It is, however, a given that once a door has closed, we have the chance, however slim, of opening a new one to take its place.  

These are two different things, you understand.  Another door magically opening takes no effort – no courage – to happen.  It just happens.  That door just pops open when you pass by.  

What’s closer to the truth in life and in our industry is that when a door closes, it gives you space to open a new one.  You have the additional energy, additional mental space, additional time to pursue a new door.  This is not a passive process, it’s an active one.

It’s also a process that takes considerable courage.  The risk of rejection is very high, but the rewards can be exceptional if you can bear the strain.  

For the wee free writers of the world, it’s a process we’re constantly refining.  I don’t know about you, but I have about six different package versions from the last four or five years.  I’ve remade my resume repeatedly, I shoot new headshots every single time I’m having a good hair day.  I am properly armed, at any moment, to go through an open door.

But the challenge doesn’t lay in choosing samples or building a new resume.  It doesn’t lay in posing in front of a camera, trying to smile like a human instead of a swamp creature.  Where it lies is in the courage to take those well-honed weapons and approach the proverbial door in the first place.

That Door Doesn’t Always Open Smoothly

Today I’m struggling to write my first piece for a new project.  A lot has happened in the last few weeks since I was hired, and I am behind.  The stress of that, plus the general uncertainty of what actually is hiding behind that door is making it hard to know how to begin.

But the more I’ve pondered this situation today, the more I’ve realized that this happens in all kinds of situations in life.  We see a door close, whether by our choice or not, and we stand in the dark hallway, unsure of how to proceed.  Even if we’re staring at an open door, we sometimes waiver.

Courage doesn’t come easy, nor does it come cheaply.  It’s bought with so many deep emotions, and so many tiny kindnesses from the people who believe in us.  We know we could easily fail.  We know we could fall before we even reach the door in question.  

Courage, then, think, is recognizing all that we’re up against, and going for it anyway.  Courage is knowing what we want and doing all we can to achieve it.

Understand that you’re probably going to fail.  Not this time, necessarily, but you will.  Failure isn’t the opposite of courage.  Failure is part of being courageous.  You can stack all those failures together and build a freaking bridge to almost anywhere, provided you learn from each one.

Starting Again… Again

This pandemic year has been a whole bunch of weird stops and starts for so many of us.  We’ve seen massive losses: of friends, family, businesses, careers.  We’ve lost faith, hope, confidence in our fellow man.  But we’ve also found love, support, kindness, and charity in extremely unexpected places.  

These are doors, too.  Doors that close, doors that open.

Taking that first step toward starting over yet again can feel like being lashed to a practically immovable stone.  The fear of another stop is very real.  The question of whether the end result is even worth the steps that feel so, so heavy is ever-present.  

But, honestly, if you’re not doubting yourself after the kind of pandemic it’s been, I don’t think you’ve really been paying attention.

The good news – the greatest news, maybe – is that everyone else is just as uncertain.  A whole lot of us are in hallways right now.  A whole lot of us are trying to find some path forward – in life, in work, in relationships, in our personal paths.

So, if you find yourself afraid that you can’t open that next door, like I am today, I want you to know that you’re not alone.  Write that thing.  Ask that person out for coffee.  Reach out to friends that you’ve not seen in a year.

Throw all the doors wide open.

Otherwise, what are we even doing?  Hanging out in a smoldering hallway doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time.  How about you?

Be bold, my mofos.  Reach down deep and find that thing that makes you you.  Kick in the door that stands between you and that next big thing.  It might not work out, but isn’t it better to know than to be left standing in the hallway wondering?